Jonty was waiting not very patiently for Devan to wake up. If he didn’t wake in a minute, Jonty was going to have to help him. Yesterday had been almost the best day of Jonty’s life. Maybe the best. It was so hard to choose. What about the day he’d met Devan? The day he and Devan had…? Well, yesterday had been one of the best for certain. Because…drum roll…flashing lights…Devan had proposed. Jonty’s heart thumped hard. He could still hardly believe it. Admittedly, the T-rex had almost come between them, but at least that made it a night to remember. Though he’d better not say that to Devan because the proposal made it a night to remember without the T-rex.
But the T-rex had been part of what happened and the costume was so much fun. Jonty wanted to get his money’s worth out of it which was why he was wearing it now, waiting for Devan to wake up. He nudged Devan’s nose with the inflated head. Nothing. Damn. It wasn’t easy to do anything with arms this short, but he managed to pull the cover off the bed. Then drooled.
Devan was curled up naked, his mouth slightly open, looking so sexy that Jonty almost regretted the costume. Almost. He tried a growl. Did T-rexes growl? He had no idea but he felt like they’d growl. No response from Devan.
Jonty was fed up of waiting. So he crawled onto the bottom of the bed and nudged Devan’s cock with his nose. Devan still didn’t move. For one horrible moment, Jonty wondered if he’d died of pure happiness but no, he was still breathing, his chest going up and down. Jonty reached out, as best he could with tiny arms and smacked Devan across the face. Maybe a little harder than he’d—
Devan shrieked really loudly and lurched upright. “What the fuck?”
“Surprise!” Jonty said.
The bedroom door sprang open and Cato burst in. “Are you—? Oh. That was why you screamed like a little girl?”
“He’s being ravaged by a T-rex. He’s in a state of shock,” Jonty said, voice muffled.
“Ravaged or ravished?” Vigge said behind Cato.
Devan yanked the cover back over his body. Not without some difficulty because Jonty was leaning on it.
“Get out,” Devan said. “I need wordths with my fianthcé.”
“You should have thought more carefully about proposing to a T-rex,” Cato said. “This could come back to hurt you.”
“Out!” Devan ordered.
Cato and Vigge left, laughing.
Oops. Devan was using that tone of voice that meant Jonty was in trouble.
“Yes, Best Fiancé in the Entire Multiverse?”
“I only got chance to wear this for a short while.” But now the costume was starting to get uncomfortably hot.
“But a very important thort while.”
“A bit like the fangths that were thuppothed to be jutht for one night and are thtill in my mouth?”
“I like you with a lisp.”
Devan just stared at him.
“But you’re better without one.” Hurry, think of a distraction, you idiot.
“Thank you.” Devan was still staring.
“I don’t think I’d like to be a T-rex,” Jonty said. “How do you think they wiped their bums?”
Devan snorted. “Do our dogths wipe their backthides?”
“That’s true but we don’t know the habits of the dinosaurs. We don’t know what noises they made or even what colour they were. So they might have wiped their backsides.”
“Not even by rubbing them on something small and furry?”
At least Devan was smiling now.
“Tell you what,” Devan said. “You like being a T-rethx. I think you ought to thtay as one until I get the fangth taken out.”
“But…we were going to lunch with Cato and Vigge.”
“We thtill are.”
“But how am I going to eat?”
“I’ll allow you to do that.”
“We won’t be able to celebrate our engagement.” Jonty tried to do an enticing move on the bed and Devan laughed. Bastard!
“We did latht night. We can tonight. You bought an extra battery, didn’t you? Make thure ith charged.”
Jonty was pretty sure Devan had chosen the most awkward itinerary for the day once he’d discovered there was no dentist appointment to be had until Monday. The four of them went for a walk at Seahouses with Charlotte and Winnie, and Devan made him have both dog leads.
“I’m taking lots of pictures, Jonty,” Cato told him. “So is everyone else.”
Jonty huffed. He wasn’t going to admit to it, but he quite liked being the centre of attention.
But the bike ride was not so straight forward. He and Devan had bikes and they’d borrowed two from Tay’s parents for the weekend so the four of them could ride part of the ‘Coast and Castles’ route. Jonty pleaded to be allowed to take the costume off but Devan wouldn’t let him. So once he’d managed to find his balance on the bike, he waved at everyone that passed. There was a lot of horn tooting.
When they stopped for lunch, finally, Jonty was allowed to at least take his head out of the costume.
“Had fun?” Cato asked.
“Marvellous fun.” Jonty beamed, but he was hot and sweaty and thirsty. He ruffled his hair which was plastered to his head.
“You certainly had your picture taken a lot,” Vigge said.
“No one will know the identity of the mysterious T-rex seen out and about in Northumberland today, whereas all your faces, as the tormentors of that poor T-rex will be out in the world for everyone to see. Very likely all over social media.”
Devan laughed. Cato and Vigge didn’t. Particularly Vigge.
“Maybe they’ll think you’re arresting me, Vigge.” Jonty widened his eyes.
Vigge paled. “Maybe that’s enough now.”
“Did you bring his clothes?” Cato asked.
Devan shook his head.
“That was deliberate,” Jonty said. “I’m being punished because he can’t get his fangs out. I can cycle back naked.”
“And get arrested?” Vigge said.
“Oh dear. So shall we go back once we’ve eaten?” Jonty asked.
Everyone looked at Devan and he finally nodded.
“Then can I take the costume off?”
“Not until I think you’ve been punithed enough.”
“What if I promise to do that thing with my tongue that—”
“Okay,” Devan said quickly.
Cato put his hands over his ears. “Lalalalalalala. I really don’t want to know what my brother likes you to do with your tongue.”
Jonty grinned. “Lick—”
Three hands clapped over his mouth. As if that was going to stop him. Jonty waited until everything was calm and said, “I’m very flexible. I can lick—”
“One more word and I’ll marry the T-rexth instead of you.”
Was that possible? No, that couldn’t happen. But he’d pushed Devan far enough.
Don’t read this until you’ve read Jonty’s Halloween!
Devan glanced across at Jonty. “You’re much too quiet.”
Jonty stopped chewing his work-in-progress fingernail to gape at him. “You’re always complaining I’m too noisy. When we’re in the supermarket, at work, on a plane, in the car, in bed… Well, maybe not in bed.”
“But we’re in the car and you always have something to say when I’m driving. Usually that I’m going too fast and I’ve even driven too fast just to see what you’d say.”
“I’m too traumatized to speak.” Actually, Jonty was preoccupied by thoughts of what was going to happen when they reached their destination. More precisely what Devan’s mother was going to say. And do. Jonty was looking forward to it as much as he looked forward to seeing a clown. He shuddered, then spotted a sign on the right that gave him an idea.
“There’s a garden centre up ahead. Can we call in? Just for a few minutes.” Or an hour.
Devan gave a heavy sigh. “Fine.”
That would mean even less time spent with Devan’s parents. Not that Jonty had anything against Will. Because he liked Will and Will liked him. Even so, there was no escape until after lunch tomorrow. Yet it was entirely possible that Jonty and Devan’s news would be greeted with such horror that they’d be leaving moments after Devan had made the announcement to his parents. Possibly after calling an ambulance for his mother. Oh damn, but then they’d have to stay.
Devan pulled up in the garden centre car park and Jonty almost leapt out of the car. “Let’s buy your mother a plant.”
“In addition to the flowers you purchased from the motorway services when you went for a pee half an hour ago?”
“Yes, because knowing my luck, the moment I hand her those, every stalk will droop, the flower heads will fall off and she’ll be left holding a pathetic, dried-up bouquet and she’ll think I did it on purpose.”
Devan laughed and took hold of his hand. “No cacti. Okay? She doesn’t like them.”
“Right. What about a carnivorous plant?”
“That’s all my choices gone.”
“You are such a dickhead.”
Devan elbowed him and Jonty pretended Devan had put far more force into it than he actually had, and staggered across the car park only just avoiding collision with an elderly couple. “Please don’t hit me again, sir.”
Devan’s glare made Jonty laugh. “Don’t push your luck.”
The doors slid open at their approach and they entered a covered, open-ended area with hundreds of plants on display.
“What sort of thing are you looking for?” Devan asked.
“Something sturdy. Though I should let you know I am the dark angel of death as far as garden centres are concerned. I don’t think I’ve ever bought any plant from one that has survived longer than a week. I can almost hear them shouting don’t pick me as I walk past.”
“So what are we doing in here then?”
“I intend to hand it over to your mother before it curls up and dies.”
Jonty looked around, hoping for inspiration. “Oh look. Wow, they are beautiful.” He headed over to a tub of daffodils. “I can’t go wrong with these, can I? They have to be outside and if they die, there are lots of things to blame other than me. They’re even reduced.”
“It’s not my fault if they get covered in black fly or beetles.”
“Or if they get eaten. Quick! Google if they’re poisonous to dogs.”
“Jonty! Look at them!”
“I don’t want to look at them again. They’ll die just to spite me.”
“They aren’t going to die.”
“Why aren’t you googling?”
“What month is it?”
“November. What does that have to do with googling? Aren’t you allowed to use Google in November? Is it a new rule? Why didn’t you tell me? How are you going to manage without PornHub? Where will you get your inspiration. I’m going to be so bored.”
“When did you last see daffodils in November?
Jonty turned, then bent to look more closely. Ah. Shit. “That’s amazing! Think how thrilled your mother will be to get daffodils at this time of the year. They must be really rare. She’ll think I paid a lot more than four pounds.”
“You’re not taking her a tub of plastic daffodils. And yes, they are poisonous to dogs.”
“Even the plastic ones?”
“Any ones, knowing my dad’s dogs.” Devan picked up a flowering purple plant. “This is pretty. Allium thunbergia. Ozawa.”
“Bless you.” Jonty grinned. “It says it’s an onion. I can’t buy your mother an onion.” He moved on. “Oh, I like this one. It’s weird. Colletia paradoxa. Anchor plant.”
“It is weird. Are they leaves?”
Jonty read the description. “No, the leaves appear in the spring.”
“The stems look like jet planes.”
“I was thinking more of little green bats. We’ll take this one. I like it. Mostly because it doesn’t look as if it will die before we get there.”
Jonty came up with four more reasons to stop in the next fifteen minutes. None of which Devan responded to.
“I really do need to pee.” Jonty crossed his legs.
“No, you don’t.”
“Yes, I do. How are you going to feel when your mum tries to hug me for the very first time and I have to rush past her into the house, possibly bowling her over, so I don’t wet myself? Because you know I’ll blame you.”
Devan pulled into a layby. “Go in the hedge.”
“What if someone sees me?”
“What excuse can I use if someone—?”
“Jonty! Just go!”
“Don’t look at me then. I can’t pee if you look at me.”
Devan laughed. “That’s not true. You wait until I go into the bathroom and then leap in front of me to pee.”
“That’s just so that you get your daily quota of the perfection that is my arse.”
Jonty slipped round to the other side of the car and checked to see if anyone was coming before he unzipped. The tiny amount he produced really hadn’t been worth the bother, but it was a few minutes less in the clutches of Godzilla.
He got back into the car and clipped in his seat belt. “Will your mum mind if I hug her without having washed my hands? She won’t know where they’re been if we don’t tell her. But I know what you’re like. Don’t let it slip out.”
Devan sighed. “Hand sanitiser in the glove box.”
Jonty used it. He couldn’t come up with any more reasons to stop. He’d gone through his whole repertoire. Hungry, thirsty, toilet break, possible injured animal at the side of the road, pothole that might have been caused by a meteorite… Well, he had a few more, but maybe it was better to get this over with.
When Devan pulled up outside the house, Jonty’s throat was dry. He was desperate that Devan’s mother didn’t get upset, though he thought she might. Devan picked up their overnight bag from the boot, while Jonty carried the plant and the flowers, and they headed up the steps. The door opened before they reached it and Jonty’s mum stood there smiling. She was looking at Devan, but even so…
“How lovely…to see you.” Her speech was still a little slow after her stroke but other than that, she seemed her usual self. Devan had a long hug, Jonty was clutched by the shoulders and given a two-sided air kiss.
“For you,” Jonty said and held out the gifts. “The bat plant can stay outside. If you tell me where you’d like it putting, I could do that for you.”
“Bat plant?” She frowned. “Oh yes, how unusual. Yes, leave it…outside.”
Devan’s father came into the hall and he hugged them both—properly. Jonty had to resist the urge to keep hold of him.
“Good journey?” Will asked.
“Not bad,” Devan said. “A few delays.” He glanced at Jonty.
“Come and have a drink in the drawing room.” Will smiled at them.
“We’ll just take the bag upstairs.”
“I’ll put flowers…in water.” As Devan’s mother walked away, she left a trail of rose petals.
Jonty sighed and followed Devan upstairs.
“When are we going to tell them?” Jonty asked. “As we leave?”
“When we get back downstairs.”
Jonty gulped. “Maybe it would be a good idea to warn them first so they can have their happy faces on for me.” He only meant Devan’s mother, but didn’t like to say so. “In fact, why don’t I stay up here and when you’re given them the news and everyone has stopped wailing and gnashing their teeth, then I could come down.”
Devan caught hold of his hand, pulled him into his arms and kissed him.
“You’re trying to make me forget what we’re here to do,” Jonty said.
Devan kissed him again.
“I haven’t forgotten.”
“Are you sure?” Devan asked.
Jonty buried his head in the crook of Devan’s neck. “They won’t think I’m good enough for you.”
“Stop it right now! I’m the one who’s not good enough for you. If anyone ever dares to criticise my choice, says anything negative about you at all, then they are no longer someone I want anything to do with. I chose you. I choose you. I love you. That’s all that matters. Not what anyone else thinks.”
“Warn her,” Jonty whispered. “She’s going to be upset. Please warn her and then when we announce it, she can pretend.”
“No.” Devan took hold of Jonty’s hand and tugged him from the room.
“You need to say it. I’ll get it wrong,” Jonty said.
Devan looked at him and laughed. “How can you get it wrong?”
“I might say Devan and Guillaume are getting married.”
“He’s that waiter you flirted with in Paris.”
Jonty thought about falling down the stairs, but then worried he might actually break his neck so he didn’t. No yawning gap opened up in the hall floor. An earthquake didn’t strike as Devan pushed open the door to the drawing room. No rush of water carried them away. They were in there, and Will and Godzilla were waiting and Jonty was going to cry if her mouth tilted even a little bit the wrong way.
“Your father had a good time at the Halloween…party,” she said.
Will coughed. Probably a warning not to remind Georgina what costume he’d been wearing.
Devan pulled Jonty down to sit on the couch. “Jonty did a fabulous job. He virtually arranged the whole thing himself. It was a huge success.”
“Champagne?” Will asked.
He was already pouring four flutes so Jonty nodded, though he wasn’t sure his stomach could cope.
Once they were all holding a glass, Will said, “It’s great to see you both. Here’s to—”
“Actually, Dad, I have something I’d like to tell you.”
Jonty kept his gaze down. Maybe it was better not to see their reaction. Even Will’s.
“I’ve asked Jonty to marry me and he did me the very great honour of saying yes.”
Jonty’s felt Devan wrap his fingers around his and he forced himself to look up. Will was smiling. Georgina was smiling too. Well, maybe that was an exaggeration, but she didn’t look pissed off.
“That’s wonderful,” Will said. “Congratulations! I couldn’t be more delighted for both of you!”
“I’m very happy for you.” Georgina raised her glass. “Congratulations.”
Jonty waited for the next part but that was all she said.
“So how did you pop the question?” Will asked.
“On the beach.” Devan didn’t really answer his father, but Jonty doubted he wanted to tell the story of quite how he’d proposed.
“Have you set a date?” his mother asked.
“No, not yet.” Devan squeezed Jonty’s fingers.
They didn’t find out what Georgina was going to say because Will interrupted her. “Think you’ll get married in the UK?”
“Of course, they will, they—” Georgina stopped abruptly. “I mean you obviously have to make up your own minds. But it would be…lovely to see you married here. In the UK, I mean.”
Jonty mentally sighed. They already knew. Georgina was being too careful about what she said and Will was watching what she said and stepping in when he was worried. Devan had already told them. Jonty knew Devan was only trying to protect him, but he was a bit disappointed because he already knew what Devan’s mother was like. He knew what she thought about him. Her reaction hadn’t been genuine.
“I know I’m not who you’d choose for Devan,” Jonty said. “But I promise to always try to make him happy, to take care of him when he’s sick, to make him smile when he’s sad. I love him more than I ever thought I could ever love anyone. I want to spend the rest of my life with him at my side. Devan is…everything, and a lot of that is down to you. So thank you for raising such a kind, caring guy.”
Jonty looked at Devan. “And thank you for taking a chance on me. I feel like the luckiest person in the world. I will try to be good enough for you. I’ll never stop trying to be the sort of husband you deserve.”
Devan swallowed hard. “Jonty… I’m the lucky one.”
A muffled sob came from the direction of Devan’s mother and Jonty looked across to see she was crying. Probably with horror that Devan had picked him instead of some important, wealthy person who never did anything stupid.
“Jonty!” Georgina held out her hand.
What did she want him to do? Devan nudged him, took the glass from his hand and Jonty crossed the room to Georgina’s side. She grasped his fingers.
“Devan is right. He is the lucky one. You make him happy. No mother could ask for more. Now tell me all about his proposal. Was it very romantic?”
“I thought it was.” Jonty shot Devan a panicked look.
“Tell mum what happened.”
“The truth?” Jonty gaped at him.
So Jonty told her and to his astonishment, she did laugh.
“Oh Jonty, Devan’s right. You are a treasure.”
When Devan and Jonty escaped for a walk, Jonty tucked his hand into Devan’s pocket.
“That went well,” Devan said. “You worked some sort of magic on my mother. Maybe it was her brush with death, the sudden realisation that you don’t know what life’s going to throw at you.”
“She and your father already knew.”
“You thought that too?”
Jonty frowned. “You didn’t tell them?”
They looked at each other and said the same word together, “Cato.”
“I’ll bloody kill him,” Devan said.
“No, too messy. Think of something else.” Jonty sighed. “Anyway, he did it because he didn’t want me to be hurt. He probably threatened your mum to make her behave, but…”
“Those tears were genuine. She’s not a crier. And deep down, she just wants her kids to be happy. She’s finally seen that you make me happy.”
“For ever and ever.”
Devan kissed him. “For ever and ever.”
Matthias tried not to look at Briar when he walked into the operations room at Paranormal Resolutions, but the guy was a bloody magnet. South pole to Matthias’ north. Yin to his yang. Sunshine to storm. Blunt to sharp. Opposites fucking well attracting. Briar was everything Matthias didn’t like and didn’t want.
Oh, he could go on and on and on. Just like Briar usually did.
“Hi, Matthias. Good morning. You look nice in that suit. Isn’t it a lovely day! I bought you a coffee.”
Matthias lifted his gaze from the file he was reading. “Why?”
“Why is it a good morning? Because neither of us were staked in the night. Why do you look nice in that suit? Because you look particularly handsome in dark-grey. I think it’s a lovely day so I hoped you did too and I bought you a coffee because it’s a nice thing to do. I haven’t been able to help but notice that you’re always in a better mood when you’ve had one.”
Matthias stared at the paper cup Briar had placed on his desk.
“It’ll be hot so careful you don’t burn your mouth. I’d miss all those sarky snarky comments.”
Matthias picked up the coffee and sipped it through the hole in the lid. “Arrhgh… What the hell is this?” He’d wanted to spit it out, but his cry of disgust had attracted the attention of others in the room so he had to swallow. Ugh.
“Oh no. Did I give you the wrong one?” Briar grabbed the cup from Matthias’s fingers and sipped it. “Ah. This is the triple long shot grande salted caramel mocha latte with two pumps of vanilla and extra caramel on the extra whipped cream. Oops.” Briar winced. He put the other cup in front of Matthias. “This must be yours. Black coffee. Sorry.”
Briar sat at his desk opposite Matthias, took another sip of his drink and a blissed-out expression blossomed on his face. Matthias failed to bite back his irritation.
“You don’t mind that I drank from that before you?” Matthias asked.
“Why would I? This is too good to waste. Ecstasy in a cup. Ohhh.” He let out a long moan. “It’s so tasty. It hits just the right spot. Over and over. Oh God. God!”
The groans and moans continued with Briar’s exclamations rising to a crescendo of delight that made everyone in the room laugh, apart from Matthias.
“Have you read the Sutton file?” Matthias asked.
“Cover to cover?”
“Assimilated the information, come to a decision on the action that needs to be taken, considered possible outcomes?” Matthias had an excuse to stare at him now, so he did. Briar was small—well, smaller than him, had fewer muscles than him, had curly light brown hair, brown eyes—like a fawn that was about to be pounced on, lips that were much too…everything.
“Yes,” Briar said.
Matthias realised he’d forgotten the question he’d asked. He looked down at the folder in front of him. Oh yes. “Off we go then.”
“No, you won’t. I want you to get there in one piece.”
Briar followed him from the room. “Don’t you mean that the other way round? That you want to get there in one piece?”
“What happened last time you drove me?”
“Oh yes, you wrenched me out of the driver’s seat and threw me in the back of the car. I hadn’t even got out of the car park.”
“I’ve signed you up for advanced driving lessons.”
Brian bounced at his side. “You mean I’ll get to learn how to perform handbrake turns, how to drive backwards really fast, the details of evasive manoeuvring and slalom techniques?”
“The first three lessons are how to get out of a car park without hitting another vehicle.”
Briar grumbled under his breath, but Matthias was serious.
Matthias parked a little way down the road from the address they were heading for. There had been reports of unauthorised feeding by a vampire called Louis Ball. One of his meals had been heard bragging and that could make things quickly escalate.
“What do you want me to do?” Briar asked.
“There’s a back way out of this place. Go and cover it in case he tries to run.”
“Give me a few minutes to get there.”
Matthias didn’t really want Briar out of his sight, but he had to learn how to do this job. If Briar hadn’t been with him, Matthias would have knocked on the door, but he needed to get inside quickly to defuse any potential issues before Briar got into trouble. He gave Briar enough time to reach the back, then headed for the front. Once he was sure he was unobserved, one hard kick opened the door and Matthias stepped inside.
There was no one in the front room, but he found Briar sitting at the kitchen table talking to a young guy.
“This is Louis,” Briar said. “It’s all sorted out.”
Matthias blinked. “Really? He knows he’s been a naughty boy and he promises not to do it again?”
“He had to use his blood money to pay his rent and he was desperate.”
“I was,” Louis muttered, his eyes downcast.
“Those you fed from paid you,” Matthias said.
“I thought it was safer. I went to a club where I know wannabe vamps hang out. Elysium. Know it? They just sort of fell onto my fangs.”
Matthias rolled his eyes.
“He’s only been a vamp for a few years,” Briar said.
“How many?” Matthias asked. “And don’t lie because I can check the register in an instant.”
Briar gasped. “That’s not a few years.”
“How old is he?” Louis nodded towards Matthias, but kept his head lowered.
“Ancient,” Briar said. “Really, really old. Great-grandpa of vampires. Like Atilla the Hun. That sort of old.”
Matthias sighed. “Thank you so much, Briar.”
“And very wise,” Briar added. “Smart as a…fox, a whip, a cookie, a—”
One glare and Briar shut up. That made a change.
Matthias turned to Louis. “You had no authority to feed on a mortal. You risk us all in doing that. You’re old enough to know better. You do know better and if you can’t afford the rent, find somewhere cheaper to live.”
“I said he could share with me,” Briar mumbled.
Matthias had to repeat that comment in his head a few times before he could convince himself it was what he’d heard. Good grief, Briar!
“Though I didn’t realise he was that old.”
A comment that hurt.
“Not that I’m ageist,” Briar said. “Old people have a lot to contribute. Gardening tips and crossword clues and—”
Louis sniggered and Matthias seized the opportunity to lower his stress levels. He caught hold of Louis by the scruff of the neck and hauled him not just to his feet, but off his toes. “This is your only warning. You do not live-feed from anyone. You’ll be watched and if you break the rules, you’ll be brought before the Vampire High Council and pay a high price. Understand?”
Louis nodded. He couldn’t speak. Matthias’s hold on his throat was too tight. Matthias let him fall and Louis crumpled to the floor rubbing his neck. Briar looked as though he was going to check the guy was all right until he caught the scowl on Matthias’s face.
“And let that be a lesson to you,” Briar said, brushing his hands together. “Shall we go? I need to go out the way I came in or it’s bad luck. See you round the front.”
“Leave by the front door.” Matthias heard the growl in his voice, but he couldn’t help himself.
Matthias followed Briar out of the house and once they were in the car and the doors were locked, he stopped grinding his teeth.
“Well, that went well.” Briar beamed.
“In what way?”
“No heads were ripped off.”
“Were you including yours?”
Briar cringed. “I might have been.”
“You actually offered him your spare room?”
“He seemed nice.”
Matthias dragged his fingers through his hair. “You are—”
“Too kind. I know. But he just needs a break.”
“You judged that in the minute or so you were with him before I burst in?”
Matthias was about to set off when something occurred him. “Tell me you didn’t give him your address.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake.” Matthias pulled out and headed for Woolwich.
“Where are we going?” Briar asked.
“Why do you think?”
“You can’t resist my charms any longer?”
“You need a blowjob and I’m the closest available mouth?”
For a moment, a brief moment, Matthias’s cock began to indicate its approval of that idea until Matthias thought of his mother, which was enough to deflate any situation of this sort.
“Message your landlord. Tell him you’re moving out.”
“You told Louis where you lived. You invited him to stay with you. You know nothing about him apart from the important detail that he’s broken vampire law and you are an upholder of that law. And when you got back from work to find your place full of vampires feeding on humans, what were you going to do? Call me?”
Briar took out his phone and tapped into it. “Okay. Done. Where am I going to go?”
“That’s not my problem.”
“It sort of is.”
Matthias was shocked by how little Briar had. Two suitcases of clothes and a box of kitchen paraphernalia.
“Is that it?” Matthias asked.
“I couldn’t go back to my parents. I lost everything including my money when I ran. I rented a fully furnished place until I can afford to buy stuff for myself. I’ve got an IKEA wish list though.”
“I can stay in a hotel for a while. A cheap one.” Briar shrugged. “No problem.”
“I have a spare room.” Oh shit. Did I just say that?
“Or a bed and breakfast place. That would be fine. Not that I’d need the breakfast. I prefer to eat dinner when I do consume mortal food.”
“Are you going to make me say it again?”
“I could ask someone from work if I could stay with them for a while. I’m sure there’d be loads of offers to let me stay. I’m fun.”
Matthias ground his teeth. “I have a spare room. You can stay with me.”
Briar sighed. “Could you try to sound a little bit less pissed-off about it?”
“Give me a few hours.”
He heard Briar quietly laughing.
As they carried Briar’s things up to Matthias’s penthouse apartment, Briar didn’t stop talking. “I’ll be the most considerate person you’ve ever had staying with you.”
“No one’s stayed with me before.”
“Long enough to forget how awful it was.”
“Well, then I’ll definitely be the most considerate person you’ve ever had staying with you. No more than one party a week, right? No more than three in a bed? You can label your stuff and I won’t use it unless I’m desperate.”
Matthias paused as he pressed his code into the door.
“Kidding!” Briar grinned at him.
Later that night, tucked up in bed in the spare room, Briar made a call. “Hi, Louis. It worked. Thank you so much. I’m sorry he was a bit rough.”
“He’s a moody bastard. Sure you’re doing the right thing?”
“I like a challenge.”
Louis laughed and ended the call. Briar put his phone on the bedside table and wondered if he should fake his bad dream tonight or tomorrow. The door swung open and Matthias stood there in his black boxers looking so hot but also so absolutely furious that Briar realised he’d heard what he’d said. Shit.
Briar climbed out of bed and walked over to him. “Sorry.”
“Manipulating you into asking me to share your place.”
“How should I punish you?”
“Refuse to have sex with me? Refuse to let me come?”
“There you go then. You can wait.” Matthias walked out and closed the door. Only then did he allow himself to smile. Did Briar really think he could successfully fake a case of illegal feeding?
Though now Matthias had to wait too, with temptation a room away.
Who was going to break first?
Don’t read this until you’ve read Jonty’s Halloween!
Devan had taken a long time setting this up and he could already feel things starting to go wrong. That was probably because he was clinging onto the highest part of the roof on the tower at The Dunes Hotel trying to secure an enormous inflatable dragon in place, in increasingly windy conditions. Why had he bought one this size? Why wasn’t the weather cooperating? Why had he thought he’d be fine this high off the ground with no safety rope?
He hadn’t felt as if he could risk anyone else’s neck to tie the thing on as high as this. He’d already been down to the ground four times to check how it looked and if this attempt wasn’t perfect, well, it would have to do. He’d scratched his face, lost a shoe and wrecked a perfectly good sweater. He wasn’t even thinking about his shredded nerves.
Enough was enough.
He climbed back through the window, only dislodging one tile, this time, but he still had to go back and put it in place. Then he secured the window from the inside in case any other idiot thought of getting out there too, and headed down to the ground. He prayed the remote worked after all this effort. Once outside, he walked away from the hotel entrance until he’d have the view that Jonty would be greeted by when he arrived the following evening.
Devan mentally crossed his fingers and turned. The silver dragon was twisted around the tower, the head facing him and it looked…fantastic. Devan took a deep breath and pressed the remote. His eyes widened. Bloody hell. The thing was almost…scary. Jonty was going to love it. He hoped.
“Ouch, ouch, ouch,” Jonty yelped. “What’s that in the bed, apart from you?”
“I don’t normally make you yelp.”
“No.” Jonty gave a sad sigh, trying to sound as if he were disappointed.
“What the hell is it?” Jonty burrowed under the covers and wrapped his fingers around the piece of plastic that had spiked his arse, registering it was some sort of toy, but then burrowed further until he reached Devan’s cock. He touched it, yelped again and scooted up until his head emerged next to Devan’s.
“It’s so long and thick and sharp. What have you done to it? Can you buy dick-sharpeners on Amazon now? I wonder if anyone has ever put their dick into one of those spiralisers?”
“Oh God,” Devan groaned. “I hope you weren’t thinking you might get lucky this morning because even the mere thought of that has caused the fastest deflation I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. And that includes the time my mother burst in on me when I was…busy.”
Jonty laughed and opened his hand. He held a small red dragon with stick-out wings. “How did he get in our bed?”
“I can’t imagine.”
“Maybe his mummy left him for me to look after.”
“That will be it.”
“Or his daddy.”
“Are you his daddy?” Jonty held the dragon up to Devan’s mouth. “Give him a kiss.”
“I don’t think so.”
Jonty sucked in a breath. “But he’ll be traumatised.”
Devan grabbed the dragon, kissed it and threw it across the room. “Wow, he can fly!”
“Is that another example of tough love? Like when I told you I only wanted to go to the top of the diving board to have a look and you told them to clear the pool?”
“I told you not to go up.”
“But I had to dive and it was so high.”
“You could have jumped.”
“But it’s called a diving board.”
“I’d like to go to Acapulco next year. Going loco down in Acapulco,” he sang.
Jonty kissed his way down Devan’s chest. “Still no?”
“It’s too dangerous.”
“I might get poked in the eye by your spiralised dick.”
Devan yanked him back up the bed. “I never want to hear those two words together. Ever.”
“But how can we have a conversation about ducks’ dicks then? Did you know they’re—”
“Ah, but did you know that if there are a lot of competitors around, they can grow an extra bit on the end of their dicks?”
“Shush now. Use your mouth for something else.”
Jonty grinned and slid below the covers.
“What’s the surprise?” Jonty asked.
“If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise.”
Devan had made him put on a blindfold and promise not to peek, so Jonty hadn’t. But he knew they were heading for the hotel. He could do this journey in his sleep. He knew every turn, every twist of the road, and recognised the exact spot where Devan put his foot down and let the Aston purr.
Except, then they weren’t heading for the hotel.
“Are we there yet?” Jonty asked.
That was a five-point turn. Where the hell were they going?
“Are we nearly there now?” Jonty asked.
“I hope we’re not going back home.”
Devan didn’t say anything. But he’d been round that roundabout four times. Now Jonty had no idea where they were heading.
“Sure we’re not nearly there?”
“Ask me again and this journey might take even longer.”
Jonty pretended to zip his lips.
Finally, the car stopped and Devan turned off the engine.
“Oh no,” Jonty said. “We’re not here already, are we?”
Devan laughed. “You still can’t look.”
“Okay. I am so excited. Is it—”
“Don’t guess, because if you get it right, I’ll be very disappointed. Keep the blindfold on. I’m going to come round and get you out of the car.”
Jonty let Devan help him from the car. He felt Devan move him behind him, then he lifted the blindfold out of the way.
“I’m always surprised by how gorgeous you are and that you chose me.” Jonty smiled.
“We can go home now, then.”
Jonty laughed. “Well, I know we’re at the hotel, though I’m facing the wrong way so what am I supposed to be looking at? Shall I go through a list of things I’d like to see?”
“No, because when what we’ve come here to see isn’t top of that list, you’ll break my heart. Turn round.”
Jonty gulped. He really had no idea what Devan had done and that was unusual because no matter how sneaky the Best Fiancé in the Universe was, Jonty was sneakier. But he turned and gasped. Wrapped around the tower was a huge silver dragon.
“Wh…what… How… Wow!” Jonty spluttered.
Devan pushed a small controller into his hand. “Press a button.”
“Are you sure? You know what happens when I do that.”
The dragon’s eyes flashed from silver, to red, to green and Jonty laughed. Another button brought a cloud of mist from its mouth.
“Which one makes it fly?” Jonty asked.
Devan rolled his eyes.
“It’s fantastic,” Jonty whispered. “Even if it can’t fly. Thank you!” Then he sucked in a breath. “How did you get it up there? Tell me you didn’t do it.”
“I couldn’t ask anyone else to.”
“Devan!” Jonty clung to him. “Imagine me having to tell your mother that a dragon killed you. She’d blame me. I’ll go up and take it down. But if I don’t make it back safely, she’ll say it served me right.”
“She’s warming to you.”
Jonty widened his eyes. “She looked as if she’d swallowed a cow when you told her our news. I felt like I’d just announced I was pregnant.”
Devan laughed. “She’s talking about venues. She’s fine.”
“But it’s our wedding and not hers.”
“Totally ours and if you don’t want any input from her, then there won’t be.”
The dragon suddenly roared and Jonty jumped into Devan’s arms. “What the hell was that?”
“Take a guess.”
“Your mother’s here?”
“She’s not here?”
Jonty turned to look at the dragon. “It was a lot of trouble to go to just for a little while.”
“There are five parties booked this week. There had been just the one, but after I called to tell them there would be a dragon on the tower, word spread and we had four more bookings.”
Jonty laughed. “And when he needs to come down, can we let him go on a windy day so he flies over the sea? We can make sure we have a boat ready to rescue him. Though no, that’s not a good idea because if there are any planes in the vicinity, the pilots and passengers might get a bit freaked out. Plus, we can put him up again next Halloween. Well, I say we but neither of us are doing it. I’ll pay someone. I can’t believe you went up so high. What if you’d slipped? I wouldn’t have been around to cushion your fall.” Jonty clung to him.
“I’ll never leave you.”
“That sounded creepy.”
“Find another way to say it.”
“Till death us do part.”
“No!” Jonty glared at him. “Death is not going to part us. Nothing will part us. I’m going to be with you for ever. All the time. Except when you’ve eaten too much garlic. Then I won’t be. Unless there’s a vampire around.”
“I love you.” Devan hugged him.
“Love you more.”
“Everything is possible. You just bought me a dragon!”
Unfinished Business Short Story
Jonty woke with a start and sat bolt upright in bed.
Devan stirred at his side. “What’s wrong? What time is it? Two thirty? Bloody hell, Jonty.”
“I had a nightmare. God. It was awful.” He shuddered.
Devan pulled him back down into his arms. “What was it about?”
“I don’t want to think about it.”
“Then go back to sleep.”
“I can’t! I’m too upset.”
Devan kissed his hair. “Tell me what it was about, then I can reassure you that there is no such thing as a man-eating spider, that a sinkhole isn’t going to open up under our bedroom and that there will be another series of The Great Pottery Throw Down on the TV.”
Jonty whined. “Now you’ve given me three other things to worry about.”
Devan groaned. “There are no such things as man-eating spiders. They can’t even lay their eggs in a human. And the chances of a sink hole opening up under the house are really small.”
“There was one on Blyth beach a few years ago.”
“Yeah, but it was only eight-feet deep.”
“Okay. But… The Great Pottery Throw Down? I love Keith so much.”
“I don’t know for certain that will be on again, but it’s such a winning formula, I’m pretty sure it will be. Why do you love Keith so much?”
“Because he cries when he’s happy. On TV! How brave is that?”
“Very brave. Are you sufficiently distracted now? Can I go back to sleep?”
“I have to tell you my dream first. It was worse than all those things. I dreamt I went to the shop to buy some Flakes and they didn’t have any. I went from shop to shop to shop and nobody had any, so I got all panicky like when I lost you in the Gents’ at the motorway service station and I thought you must have been kidnapped but you were outside waiting for me, and that’s when I woke up. It’s an omen, Devan.”
Jonty could feel Devan trying not to laugh.
“It’s not funny.” Jonty put as much indignation into his voice as he could. “I need to go the supermarket now and buy as many packs as I can.”
“You mean you want me to go?”
“Good. You’re not to go either. The nearest 24-hour supermarket is in Newcastle, fifty miles away. Go to sleep.”
Jonty wriggled out of Devan’s arms and grabbed his phone from the bedside table.
Devan yawned and rolled over.
“You’re not showing anywhere near enough concern for someone who’s supposed to be the best boyfriend in the universe,” Jonty said quietly. “I know it was a dream but… Oh my God, Devan. I can’t… You’re not going to believe this. There is a shortage of Flakes. Look!”
Devan rolled back.
Jonty put the phone in front of his face. “There’s been a run on mini-Flakes, the ones that go into ice cream cones to make 99s because of coming out of lockdown after the pandemic. Everyone wanted a 99. Of course they did. Why didn’t Cadbury’s plan for that? I would have.”
“I’m not sure Flakes would have been on my list of must-haves after lockdown eased.”
Jonty stared at him.
Jonty kept staring. “You’re not normal. You don’t even eat a Flake in one go! It says the full-size ones are in short supply too because businesses are buying them to break in half to use instead. I’m psychic. I have to be, don’t I? Why would I have dreamt that otherwise?”
“Well, maybe you saw it on the—”
“I have a gift. Wow. I should buy a National Lottery ticket right now. Tell me some numbers.”
“If you’re the psychic one, then you have to come up with the numbers.”
“I remember reading that so many people pick that combination they’d only win around four hundred pounds if all six numbers came up.”
“What? No one thinks 1,2,3,4,5,6 will come up.”
“They obviously do.”
“Now I don’t feel gifted at all.” Jonty sagged, then perked up. “Four hundred pounds, less the cost of the ticket, would buy a lot of Flakes.”
“You don’t need to buy any.”
“You don’t know me at all,” Jonty wailed.
“How much do you love me?”
“Is that a trick question?” Jonty’s hand slid to Devan’s erection. “Because I can tell you love me a lot.”
“Do you love me more than a Flake?”
“Of course I do. I’d give up my last Flake to save your life, assuming your life was really in danger. I hope a bear would rather have a Flake than eat you because I’d definitely throw one if a bear was chasing you. Do I have a last Flake? I’m pretty sure I ate it yesterday. Why did you let me eat it?” Jonty whinged.
“Because I’d have lost my fingers if I’d tried to stop you.”
“I did give you a mouthful.”
“You did and it was lovely.”
“I shared my last Flake. I think I’d like that on my tombstone above Devan should have learned how to make Flakes and Jonty would still be alive.”
Devan laughed. “Much as I like what you’re doing with your hand, I think this is the perfect time to do a little treasure hunt.”
“Two thirty in the morning. The perfect time! Except you’d rather I do a treasure hunt than play with your lovely cock? I’m a failure. I’m so devastated. I feel empty. Of Flakes.”
Devan reached into the bedside drawer on his side and pulled out a square of paper. “The first clue. I’ll just have a little nap while you go on a hunt.”
Jonty read it. “Have you heard the news? The next clue can be found where we put our…” He sighed. “Put our what?”
Devan groaned and Jonty nudged him. “Put our what?”
“Work it out. And don’t wake the dogs up.”
“Our booze.” Jonty sprung out of bed and bolted to the kitchen. Not in the cupboard. He went back to Devan. “Doos, foos, goos, hoos, moos, poos. Eww. Poos? Really?”
“Shoes,” Devan practically shouted. “Work the clues out yourself. Quietly.”
Jonty ran to the shoe rack, found the next clue and took it back to the bedroom. “They come in pairs and rhyme with clocks.” He burrowed under the duvet to Devan’s cock. “There’s nothing here and I’d have noticed a clue on mine.”
“Socks,” Devan mumbled.
Jonty leapt out of the bed and pulled open Devan’s sock drawer. “Another clue. This is fun. Isn’t it fun?”
“I was assuming you’d do it at a respectable time of the day while I read the paper.”
“But I want the treasure now. I’m all excited. Right. The clue. We’d get no light unless you pick the thing that holds a mighty… dick? These are very raunchy clues. And I’ve already searched your dick.” Jonty went through the entire alphabet and finally reached wick. He climbed over Devan to get to the candle on the chest of drawers. “Ah ha.”
“I give in. The treasure is under the bed.”
Jonty climbed over Devan again, even though he didn’t need to. Then bent over, his bare arse in the air and reached under the bed. When he couldn’t feel anything, he slid a little lower so he could look and saw a package on Devan’s side. He slid over Devan again, leaving his bare backside close to Devan’s face and pulled up a wrapped box.
Devan kissed his bum as Jonty levered himself back to Devan’s side. Jonty made short work of the paper and squealed when he saw the box of Flakes.
“How did you know what my nightmare was about? How did you know I was going to have a nightmare? How did you know there was going to be a Flake shortage? I am in awe of your wondrousness.”
Jonty kissed the box. “I love you so much.” Kiss. “You are so beautiful.” Kiss. “And tasty.” Kiss.
Then he set the box aside. “Answer me now, oh fabulous true psychic one.”
“I read there was a shortage of Flakes and immediately went and bought four boxes.”
“Where are the other three?”
“I’m not telling you. Make the first box last. I had no idea you were going to have a nightmare or what it would be about. I’d planned the treasure hunt for tomorrow morning. I was going to break the news of the shortage to you, then give you the first clue. If I was psychic, I’d have anticipated you’d wake me in a panic at some God-awful time in the morning. But I didn’t.”
Jonty slid on top of him. “You are the best boyfriend ever. Are you awake now?”
Devan wrapped his hands around Jonty’s arse. “Yes.”
“I’m too excited to go straight back to sleep.”
“I can tell.”
Jonty wriggled against him. “All I can think about is… Waking up and sucking a Flake.”
Devan growled and pushed Jonty down. “Find something else to put in your mouth.”
“Can I have a Flake after?”
The first meeting and first date of Newt and Leigh from ‘Waiting for Ru’
Unfinished Business Short Story
Leigh had been told to be there at eight to catch the pathologist before he started work. He’d had every intention of being there early and it was now almost nine o’clock. He hated being late. Really hated it. He’d rather be an hour early than a minute late. He had his strict parents and boarding school to thank for that, along with a near obsession with tidiness and cleanliness. He’d left a message for Dr Newton Sanders, apologising, but Leigh was pissed off with himself for not being there on time. Events conspiring against him was not an acceptable excuse.
On call last night, Leigh should have been off duty by seven, but had crawled out of bed just before five to go and see an alpaca that was having problems giving birth. It turned out that she was having twins. Rare and undesirable in that particular animal, but it happened. Two live babies—crias—were eventually delivered, and everyone was happy, including him. Leigh set off home only to get stuck behind a broken-down tractor. He still wasn’t running late when he reached his house, but he made his shower quick rather than leisurely, grabbed a coffee to go rather than sit at the table and take his time, only to find the road blocked en route to Dorchester, which forced him on a six-mile detour. Running out of petrol was the final straw. That had never happened to him before. It was almost as if fate didn’t want him to make this journey.
After he’d shown his ID at reception, he was escorted further into the building, handed over to someone else, then yet another person and found himself stranded in a viewing area overlooking an ongoing autopsy. Leigh didn’t think he was supposed to be watching this. Who had they thought he was? Below him were three men. Only two of them were breathing. The dead one looked…very dead. A bloated corpse with vascular marbling, and dark discoloration of his skin and soft tissue. A Y-shaped incision had been made, his skin peeled back, and a guy was up to his elbows in the chest cavity. It seemed likely this was who Leigh needed to talk to.
The pathologist looked up, as if he sensed Leigh watching, and a moment later, Leigh heard his voice over the speaker.
“Dr Mitchell, I presume. If you’re not, fuck off because this is private.”
“Dr Sanders? I’m sorry I was late. I—”
“Call me Newt. You’ll have to wait now while I determine if this poor guy was dead before or after he hit the water. You can go away and eat a nice hearty breakfast or stay and admire my…technique.”
“I’ll wait.” The idea of eating didn’t appeal; Leigh could imagine how bad the corpse smelt. But Newt Sanders did appeal.
Leigh had a thing about accents and this one was as cut-glass as you could get. He couldn’t even see the pathologist’s face or his body. He had no idea how old he was. He was wearing blue theatre scrubs, an apron, big white wellies, a mask, a face visor over that and gloves. And he was splattered with…gunk.
“Going to watch?” The tone was one of amazement.
“I’m admiring your…technique.”
Leigh left the same gap between the words that Newt had.
The pathologist paid him no more attention. He was confident and skilled. He sounded thorough in his description of what he was doing and what he found, but most impressively as far as Leigh was concerned, he was caring. He had several different voices, all with that same plummy accent. A formal one for the recording device detailing his findings. A friendlier one where he asked for a piece of equipment or explained things to his technician. And a gentle voice for the dead guy, almost apologising for what he was doing and promising to get to the bottom of what had happened to him.
Leigh was impressed, partly because he knew the job Newt was doing was in many ways misunderstood. Often seen as the nerds of medicine, pathologists were perceived to be not good with people, and that all they did were autopsies. Misconceptions, just as people assumed vets spent all their time sticking their hands up animals’ backsides or chopping the nuts off innocent males. The person Newt was working on might be dead, but he’d been someone’s son, husband, father, brother, friend and Leigh could feel Newt appreciated that. The dead man had no voice, only that of Newt. This wasn’t a dignified way to end, but Newt’s respectful treatment of the body made this less difficult than it might have been.
When Newt finally removed his apron and peeled off his gloves, Leigh realised he’d been watching him for nearly two hours. He straightened as Newt looked up at him.
“I need to shower. I’ll be with you in fifteen minutes, Dr Mitchell.”
Newt nodded. Leigh was lost and he didn’t even know what the guy looked like. Or if he was gay.
When the door at the end of the viewing area opened, Leigh stepped forward. Was this him? The guy heading towards him was about his height but there the resemblance ended. Newt had pierced ears, not just one piercing but little stars all the way down the shell, pierced eyebrows and a ring through his lip. His hair was short, spiky, wet and pink. His blue eyes were bright and the amused look on his face told Leigh that he was waiting for a reaction.
In the second Leigh had to decide how to react, he went for humour and hoped Newt got it. Leigh took out his wallet and held it out with shaking fingers.
“Don’t hurt me. Take what you need, but please leave the photo of my dog.”
Newt growled. An honest-to-God growl and Leigh felt it as a stroke of his cock.
“Now you have your wallet out, you can buy me a late breakfast. Cutting up dead bodies makes me hungry.”
Leigh put his wallet away and held out his hand. “Nice to meet you.”
Newt put his hand in Leigh’s. “I think it might be nice to meet you too. Come on. I know a good place where we can eat and you can show me that picture of your dog.”
“I don’t have a dog.”
Newt turned to him and laughed, and Leigh tried to catch his breath, catch his…anything, catch hold of a reasonable thought other than the one that was shoving persistently into his head.
He couldn’t have said what route Newt led him on. He was too distracted by listening to him talk. He was moaning about the football team he supported, Brighton and Hove Albion, and Leigh hated football, had zero interest in it, but the way Newt spoke so passionately about his team… well, Leigh was mesmerised. They ended up outside some greasy spoon café where the floor looked cleaner than the tables and none of the clientele looked a day younger than eighty, or that they had a home. Not Leigh’s sort of place.
Newt pushed open the door and gestured for Leigh to go in first. Leigh’s manners prevented him from showing how reluctant he felt. Newt ordered a full English at the counter and looked at Leigh.
“I’ll have the same.”
“And two teas,” Newt added. He paid while Leigh fumbled to get his wallet out.
Newt chuckled. “You clearly operate better under stress, whipping that wallet out when thought you were going to be robbed.”
“You know I was joking.” Leigh smiled. “Let me pay.”
“Nope. My treat. You can pay when we have tea at the Ritz.”
Leigh’s heart jumped. A flippant remark but… They walked to a table in the corner and Leigh brushed the crumbs off the seat before he dropped down.
“I’m sorry I was late,” he said. “I left a message. It was a catalogue of disasters this morning, mostly to do with traffic and blocked roads. Though I did start the day helping an alpaca give birth.”
“You want proof?” Leigh took out his phone and showed him the shot of the babies suckling.
“So cute.” Newt stared at the picture for longer than Leigh had thought he would. “They can be house-trained, can’t they? Knit yourself a jumper out of their wool. You could get one instead of a dog.”
“My hours are too difficult to have a pet.”
“That’s a shame.”
Their food arrived and Leigh had never seen such a huge plate of food in his life. He could almost feel his arteries shuddering.
“You wanted to talk to me about a horse found at a crime scene?” Newt began to eat.
“Yes. Though it wasn’t classified as a crime scene. A guy died. It looked as though his horse had kicked him.”
“And you don’t think it did?”
“Has there been an autopsy?”
“Yes, and the coroner’s ruled it an accidental death. I don’t think it was. The police aren’t interested.”
“Where did the horse kick him?”
“Middle of his forehead.” Leigh tentatively put a piece of bacon in his mouth. Not bad.
“The horse was found at the scene, so do you think a different horse kicked him or not a horse at all?”
“Not a horse.”
Newt raised his eyebrows. “Did the size of the hoof print on the guy’s head match the horseshoe? Can that be checked? Were there any other significant finds at the autopsy? Why is not accidental?”
“I don’t believe anyone checked the size of the horseshoe and compared it to the mark on the guy’s head. But if they had, they’d have seen that it didn’t match.”
“You’re sure about that? Can it be checked now?”
“The horse was reshod a day later.”
“Oh. Suspicious. What do you think happened?”
“I’m the vet who’s looked after that horse for years. Billy is gentle. I just can’t see him kicking his owner. Robert was as devoted to Billy as Billy was to him. But Robert’s brother wanted him to sell the farm after their father had died. Robert refused. He told me he’d offered to buy his brother out over time but he could only afford to do it gradually. Not good enough for Peter. I suspect he needed the money urgently.”
“So there’s a motive.”
“I think Peter mounted a horseshoe onto a piece of wood, made it a weapon and slammed it onto his brother’s head.”
Newt stopped eating and stared. “Right. Which way up was the mark on the head?”
He believes me. “The wrong way up for the horse to have kicked back at him. Billy would have to have reared up and kicked forward. Except he was tethered when I got there and the policeman I spoke to said they’d not touched him or been near him in case he kicked out at them.”
“And the police didn’t listen to what you said?”
“Dead guy with a clear horseshoe shaped mark on his forehead lying a few feet from the back of the horse. Slam dunk. Accidental death.”
“Who did the autopsy?”
“Dr Henry Bauer. Do you know him?”
“I’ve met him. Leave it with me. I’ll see what I can find out.”
“So were you and Robert friends?”
“Only as vet and client. He was a good man. I liked him.”
“You like good men?”
Leigh met Newt’s gaze across the table. “Only if they have pink hair.”
“I’m a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Newt said. “Bad to the bone.”
“You didn’t ask me if I liked bad men.”
“Only if they have pink hair and piercings.”
Newt laughed. He pushed the remains of his breakfast away. “I have to get back to work. Would you like to go out with me one night?”
“How brave are you? Club, meal, cinema or a surprise?”
Shit. Leigh wanted to say a club but his mouth came out with “Surprise.”
Newt pushed to his feet. “I’ll give you a call.”
Newt walked back to work with a spring in his step. He loved solving mysteries so the death-by-horse was right up his street. So was the strait-laced veterinarian in his buttoned-up shirt and thin blue tie. It looked as though he ironed creases into his trousers. Newt chucked. Unexpectedly, Leigh had made him laugh. Newt would give him a chance.
He didn’t get the opportunity to get in touch with Henry Bauer until after lunch. By then, Newt had read the original autopsy report and the notes from the police. There was nothing about the horse being tethered. It made a difference. There was no way the upside-down U mark on the victim’s head could have been caused by a horse kicking backwards or a tethered horse kicking forwards.
Bauer agreed with him, albeit reluctantly. They both did a bit of railing at police work being shoddy, and Newt left him to sort out the problem of reopening the investigation.
By the time Newt met Leigh for their date a week later, the police had arrested Robert’s brother and charged him with murder. The cobbled-together weapon had even been found on the farm. Sometimes criminals were imbeciles. Newt and Leigh had talked on the phone several times, and Newt was excited about that night. But then he was always excited about a date, less excited when the relationship fizzled out like a damp firework which was what usually happened. Still, he hoped.
When he saw Leigh heading towards him, Newt walked straight into his arms and kissed him. He knew Leigh was shocked, but this was another of Newt’s tactics. If Leigh couldn’t cope with PDAs then he couldn’t cope with Newt. So far Leigh had passed all tests with flying colours.
And he was passing this one too. The kiss was deep and hot, and by the time they moved apart, they were both hard.
“Glad to see me then?” Leigh asked.
“I worried you’d back out.”
“I’ve never looked forward to something so much in my life. What are we doing? Bowling? Climbing? Eating in the dark? Teddy Bear Museum? Maumbury rings?”
Newt slid his hand into Leigh’s and smiled when Leigh wrapped his fingers around his.
“Nope.” Newt tugged Leigh along the street and down a side street. “Keep guessing.”
“Lock-in mystery? Walking tour of Dorchester? Treasure hunt? A Shakespeare production?”
Newt slammed to a halt. “You were doing so well. Shakespeare? Really?”
“They’re doing it in the nude.”
Newt felt his jaw drop, then caught the look on Leigh’s face. “Right.”
He began walking again and came to a halt in front of a small shop front.
“Oh God,” Leigh muttered.
“You don’t have to have anything done. You can just watch me. Or you can stick your courage to the sticking place.”
“Can I, Lady Macbeth? So you do know some Shakespeare.”
“Was it possible to get through school unscathed? I think not.”
Newt let go of Leigh’s hand, pushed open the door and they went in.
“Newt!” Daniel came over and hugged him. “How are you?”
“Excellent, thanks. This is Leigh. He’s undecided. I’ll go first. He’ll either faint, run or maybe find his sticking place.”
Newt took off his jacket, peeled off his shirt and sat on the tattooist’s chair. Going up the left side of his body was a line of small tattooed hearts. Just the outline, not filled in. On his right arm, he had a coloured dragon rising over his bicep and curling onto his shoulder and down to his right pec which had a bar piercing at the dragon’s mouth. There were more tattoos, more piercings, but they weren’t visible. If this was too much, then the rest would freak Leigh out.
The man in question stood staring and when Newt smiled, he did too.
“You don’t really think I’d faint, do you?” Leigh asked. “I had to stuff a prolapsed womb back inside a cow today. You feel like you’re having your arm swallowed.”
“Which arm?” Newt asked.
When Newt’s seventh heart had been added to the line, and a dressing applied, he rose to his feet. “Thanks, Daniel.”
“Am I going to be filling that heart in eventually?” The tattooist glanced at Leigh.
“We’ll see.” Newt turned to Leigh. “Piercing or tattoo or nothing?”
Leigh took off his jacket and rolled up the sleeve on his shirt. “9.9.19 on my wrist. Small.” Then he gulped.
“Your backside would be less painful,” Newt said.
Leigh widened his eyes, but held out his wrist.
“Is it to remind you of how stupid you were to agree to this?” Newt asked.
“Yes, in case it turns out not to be a romantic reminder of the first day we met. I thought about a waterlogged corpse but decided against.”
Newt laughed. He put his shirt and jacket back on as Daniel did Leigh’s tattoo. He hadn’t thought Leigh would agree. It wasn’t a deal breaker. He wanted to give Leigh a chance. More than a chance. Leigh didn’t even flinch as the needles darted in and out of his skin.
Daniel did a good job and once Leigh was wrapped up, Newt went to pay.
When they were outside the shop, Newt pulled Leigh into his arms and kissed him again. It was hard to stop once he’d started.
“Now what?” Leigh asked when they came up for air.
“Now you get fuck me.”
“My wrist’s killing me.”
“You need to use your wrist? Colour me intrigued.”
Leigh took Newt’s hand. “Not as intrigued as me. But can I choose where we go on our next date?”
“Yes. That only seems fair.”
“How do you feel about jumping out of a plane?”
“That it serves me right?”
They both laughed. Newt really hoped Leigh wasn’t serious.
But he was. Turns out the quiet Dr Mitchell was full of surprises.
Read this AFTER you've read Double Trouble
Raffety picked up the key at the hotel reception. “We’d have had an audience if the room hadn’t been ready.”
Jonah laughed. They were both desperate. The gaggle of Japanese tourists hovering next to the concierge desk might have had quite an eyeful if they’d not been given the key immediately. Jonah had been desperate since the moment they’d left the twins with his parents. Who’d have guessed what devoted and besotted grandparents they’d turn out to be. They’d come back to live on this side, ostensibly because of his father’s acceptance of a role on some sort of secret committee in Eyria, but the truth was, Trouble and Perfect, Thing One and Thing Two, or as they were occasionally called— Fiadh, meaning wild, and Aodh, meaning fire— had his parents wrapped around their tiny fingers.
“We’re on the top floor and there is a lift,” Raffety pointed out.
“And a line of people waiting to go up. I’m not going to risk getting stuck.” Plus, it might give his cock chance to calm down. In my dreams.
“Shower first,” Raffety said.
“Undisturbed sleep first.”
Raffety laughed. “I’ll wake you if my dummy falls out.”
“The room has a tub. A big one apparently.”
Raffety’s face lit up.
Climbing the stairs seemed only to increase Jonah’s desperation. He unlocked the door, tugged Raffety inside, dropped the bags and pressed him back to the door to close it. As their lips met, Jonah slid his hands up Raffety’s chest to his neck and curled his thumbs under Raffety’s ears.
“This first.” Jonah stripped Raffety of his clothes, then stripped himself. A moment later, they were entwined on the carpet, still by the door.
“I can’t wait,” Jonah said. “Don’t make me wait.”
When Raffety wrapped his arms and legs around him and pulled him closer, Jonah took that as agreement. Everywhere they touched radiated sensation to the rest of his body. Lust twisted Jonah’s stomach into knots and when he slipped his fingers between Raffety’s legs and felt the warmth and slickness of the entrance to his body, it just about flipped him off the top board.
Raffety’s hand slid down to Jonah’s cock and Jonah groaned into Raffety’s mouth as he stroked him.
“This might be over very quickly,” Raffety said.
Raffety laughed. It seemed as if each time they were at the point of making love, one or both babies started crying. It was as if they didn’t want any brothers or sisters. But he and Raffety were being careful. Twins were enough for the time being. When the moon was full, Raffety fucked Jonah. And when the moon wasn’t full, but they were always careful when it was a Blue Moon. Jonah wanted to lock Raffety up to protect him. Raffety didn’t let him.
Jonah dropped to his knees and kissed Raffety’s cock. It was so beautiful. Long and thick with prominent dark veins, the swollen sac tucked up tight beneath. He kissed his balls and then wrapped his hand around the base of Raffety’s shaft and pressed down while he began to pump from the top with his other hand. When he licked the crest, Raffety gurgled. Jonah’s head swam at the sweet tangy taste and as he lapped up the pre-cum gathering at the slit, hands settled on his head.
“Oh fuck, bu…wo…you…fuuuck.”
Jonah almost laughed.
“Don’t you dare laugh,” Raffety said with a gasp. “I’ve no blood left in my head. How do you expect me sense to make when talk I do?”
Jonah did laugh then. He drank in the tremors that ran through Raffety’s body because they fed his own desire. When Jonah slid his fingers into the crease of Raffety’s arse, his husband’s breathing turned ragged.
A quick glance showed him Raffety had his head back against the door, his eyes squeezed shut and his lips apart as he panted. Then, as though Raffety sensed him looking, he stared down at Jonah and his eyes darkened. Jonah took as much of him in his mouth as he could and Raffety caressed his cheek, running his thumb over the bulge made by his cock.
Raffety gripped Jonah’s hair, rocked his hips into his face, filling his mouth, his throat. He was muttering something, but Jonah couldn’t understand him. Jonah’s hand slid to his own cock and as Raffety started to lose control, so did he. They came almost at the same time, their cocks jerking. Raffety exploded with a series of juddering cries as Jonah’s hand flooded with warmth. Jonah swallowed the warm, silky spurts and when he’d finished, and only the musky tang remained in his mouth, he wanted more.
Why is nothing ever enough with him?
Raffety pulled him to his feet.
“Too fast.” Jonah pressed his face into the hollow of Raffety’s neck.
“I came, you came, what’s the problem?”
Jonah nuzzled him. “I want you begging to come. I want you driven mad with the need to come. I want to make you wait.”
“You think that’s possible?”
Jonah laughed. “Think we can make it to the bathroom? Or will we need to stop on the way?”
By the time they took the five paces to the bathroom door, he was hard again. I love being a faerie.
“Oh wow, look at that tub,” Raffety said.
Jonah reluctantly lifted his attention from Raffety’s beautiful arse to the large freestanding Victorian claw-footed tub in the middle of the room.
“Taps in the middle.” He smiled and bent to turn on the water. “Like bubbles?”
“Sounds good. I can go deep sea diving for hidden treasures.”
Jonah tipped both small bottles of bath gel under the torrent of water.
Raffety climbed carefully into the large tub and settled down in the foam. “Hmm. Bliss.”
Jonah put one toe in and whipped it out with a yelp. “Good grief. Are you cooking yourself? Shall I add carrots and onions?”
“It’s not that hot.”
Yes, it was. He whined until Raffety gave in and added some cold water. Finally, he was able to climb in without scalding his important bits and he sat facing him, his toes curling around Raffety’s back. Raffety stroked his inner thighs and slid his feet under Jonah’s arms.
“Ever shared a bath before until you met me?” Jonah asked.
“Lots of times.”
Why ask the question when I knew it would make me bristle?
“Rusty and I had loads of fun. Well, until he actually went rusty.”
“Rusty?” Jonah caught hold of Raffety’s ankle and brought his toes to his mouth.
Raffety groaned. “He was a wind-up dolphin.”
Jonah jerked, Raffety slid under the foam and emerged laughing. Then Jonah slid under and they twisted and turned in the foam, each trying to pin the other down, until there was more foam on the floor than in the tub.
Raffety lay with Jonah’s back against his chest, stroking his cock as it reared up between his legs.
“Can you actually have too much sex?” Raffety asked.
Raffety laughed. “Want to try a reverse cowboy?”
“Not without a whip.”
Oh hell, I really love him.
“Or spurs,” he added. “Then again…”
It became clear the tub wasn’t the place for the sort of vigorous, speedy sex they seemed unable to move beyond. Water and foam poured over the sides, but Jonah couldn’t have stopped to save his life.
And when they’d both come again, Jonah grateful his head hadn’t yet exploded along with his cock, they slid out of the tub onto the foamy floor and Raffety rode him the right way round. He sank down onto him and pressed him lips to his ear. “Giddy-up, horsey.”
By the time they actually made it to the bed, they’d dried off and they still couldn’t stop touching each other. They did everything until they were too exhausted to do much more than lie side by side, fingers entangled. They’d laughed and teased and Jonah didn’t remember when sex had been so much fun, so much more than just the physical pleasure of coming.
“I’ve got a confession,” Raffety said.
“I miss them.”
Jonah squeezed his fingers. “I do too but we have two days of uninterrupted time to do anything we want. And we’ve only just started.”
But when he looked at Raffety, he was asleep. Jonah smiled and snuggled up to him.
“You can wake me in an hour,” Raffety said.
“I thought you were asleep.”
“I’m an expert at pretending.”
“You mean all those times you didn’t budge when one of the Terrible Twins filled their nappy, you were awake?”
“I might have been.” Raffety opened one eye.
“I’m going to punish you for that.”
“It will be.”
“I know. That’s why I love you.”